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Liberty goes into WNBA Draft with sixth pick ... Is Louisville’s Dana Evans the smart choice?

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Stanford v Louisville Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After an off-season makeover, the New York Liberty goes into Thursday night’s WNBA Draft with a number of questions, starting with whether to go with the best player available or draft for position, in their case, a big.

After trading away the No. 1 overall pick in a series of deals that brought them defensive ace Natasha Howard and sharpshooter Sami Whitcomb, the Liberty will have the Nos. 6, 17, 25 and 27 picks. That sixth pick, WNBA pundits think, could contribute right away and with the Liberty moving to Brooklyn, a strong debut is a priority of Joe Tsai’s team.

While the Liberty could use a big, there’s a consensus among ESPN, USA Today and Bleacher Report that New York will draft Dana Evans, the Louisville point guard. Here’s her video resume’.

ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel wrote this Wednesday about Evans...

The Liberty selected Sabrina Ionescu with the first pick last season, but they could take another point guard this year. If Evans is still available, she might join three other Louisville players on the New York roster. Evans averaged 20.1 points and 3.9 assists this season, and she had a strong finish in the NCAA tournament, with 29 points in a Sweet 16 victory over Oregon and then 24 in an Elite Eight loss to Stanford.

Analis Bailey of USA Today noted her big game experience...

The two-time Player of the Year in the ACC, Evans averaged 20.1 points and 3.9 assists this season. The 5-foot-6 guard had 29 points in Louisville’s Sweet 16 win over Oregon and 25 points in the Elite Eight loss to eventual national champion Stanford.

And Joseph Zucker of Bleacher Report noted her ability to score as well as make plays...

Louisville’s Dana Evans is the second-best point guard on the board. She boasted a 1.83 assist-to-turnover ratio in 2020-21, according to Her Hoops Stats.

Evans’ assist numbers (3.9 per game) dipped slightly as she became more of a scorer (20.1 points per game). But she projects as a solid backup point guard right out of the gate as she grows accustomed to the speed of the WNBA.

CBS Sports also thinks the Liberty should go BPA, but believes that best player is not Evans but Jasmine Walker of Alabama, who is a shooter (and the Libs finished dead last in the WNBA in 3-point shooting percentage last season.)

Jack Maloney of CBS wrote this week...

The Liberty completely revamped their roster in the winter, adding a number of players who fit better with head coach Walt Hopkins’ pace-and-space style. Another player who fits that mold is Walker. The 6-foot-3 forward out of Alabama can really shoot the ball, and her ability to stretch the floor is exactly what the Liberty need on the offensive end.

Zach Ward of Swish Appeal, our SB Nation counterpart, goes the other way, thinking it’s more likely New York will draft for position and go for a 4 or 5 when they pick.

The Liberty have a great 1, 2, 3 lined up with Ionescu at point guard, Laney at shooting guard and Howard at small forward. They also have backup guard help from Layshia Clarenedon, who can run an offense and brought veteran leadership last year. and sharpshooter Sami Whitcomb. Kiah Stokes is a quick 6-foot-3 big who started taking threes last year and can start in the frontcourt, but who will join her in the starting lineup?

So, Ward thinks that the Liberty’s likely pick is Natasha Mack, a 6’4” center from Oklahoma State whose calling card is defense, averaging four blocks a game, snagging 10 in one game. .

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will announce the draft picks live on ESPN with exclusive coverage beginning at 7 p.m. ET, and top prospects will take part virtually. The draft will also be available on the ESPN App.